MANILA -- Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno filed a motion for inhibition before the Supreme Court against her four colleagues whom she accused of being biased against her, in connection with the quo warranto petition filed by the Office of Solicitor General (OSG) seeking to nullify her appointment.
Sereno sought the inhibition of Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza and Noel Tijam, who testified in her impeachment case pending before the House of Representatives and actively participated in the so-called “Red Monday” protest in the SC that called for her resignation.
Peralta earlier said Sereno's appointment could be considered void since she failed to submit her Statements of Assets Liabilities and Networth (SALN) when she applied for chief justice before the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) for the years that she was employed as professor at the University of the Philippines.
Bersamin also testified on Sereno's alleged rigging of Maute cases before the high court.
Tijam is the ponente of the case in the quo warranto proceedings against Sereno before the SC.
Jardeleza, on the other hand, said Sereno tried to block his nomination to the short list for SC justice candidates.
In four separate motions filed with the high court, Sereno—through her lawyers led by Alexander Poblador—said her constitutional right to due process would be violated if the justices who publicly criticized her in the impeachment hearings and supported calls for her resignation are allowed to participate in the deliberation of the quo warranto case.
The country’s top magistrate strongly believes that all four justices “cannot decide the quo warranto petition objectively and impartially.”
“Due process of law requires a hearing before an impartial and disinterested tribunal, and that every litigant is entitled to nothing less than the cold neutrality of an impartial judge,” Sereno said, citing Article III, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution.
The Chief Justice said that Peralta, Jardeleza and Tijam must be excluded from the quo warranto case for showing “actual bias” against her.
According to Sereno, Peralta’s apparent bias emanated from his belief that it was her who caused the exclusion of his wife, Court of Appeals Associate Justice Fernanda Lampas Peralta, from the list of applicants for presiding justice of the appellate court last year.
Peralta himself admitted this in at least two House impeachment hearings he attended.
“The Chief Justice has good reason to believe that he (Peralta) may have prejudged the merits of the quo warranto petition and that he may already have formed an opinion that the Chief Justice should have been disqualified to be nominated as Chief Justice,” Sereno said in her 14-page motion seeking Peralta’s inhibition.
At the same time, Sereno said that Peralta should disqualify himself from the case because as then acting ex-officio chair of the JBC, he would have personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the quo warranto proceeding and that he “served as a material witness in the matter in controversy.”
In the case of Jardeleza, Sereno said he manifested actual bias against her when he testified before the House justice panel in relation to the charge that she manipulated the JBC shortlist to exclude him due to personal and political reasons, and curtailing the President’s power to appoint him.
“There is reasonable basis to conclude from Justice Jardeleza’s testimony that he harbored ill feelings towards the Chief Justice as a consequence of the latter’s challenge to his integrity during the nomination process for the Associate Justice position (vice Hon. Justice Roberto A. Abad) in 2014,” Sereno pointed out in her 18-page motion for Jardeleza’s recusal.
During the impeachment hearings, the former solicitor general accused Sereno of committing treason and characterized her actions in the nomination process as “inhumane” and “not of a normal person.”
Sereno argued that Jardeleza’s characterizations of her, which were made under oath, tend to show his bias or prejudice against her.
“With due respect, this apparent prejudice against the Chief Justice renders Justice Jardeleza disqualified to hear and decide the instant petition,” she added.
Regarding Tijam, Sereno claimed that he has already formed an opinion that she should be removed from office after he was quoted in a newspaper article as saying: “If Chief Justice Sereno continues to ignore and continues to refuse to participate in the impeachment process, ergo, she is clearly liable for culpable violation of the Constitution.”
Tijam confirmed that he made the statement when he appeared before the justice committee.
Sereno, meanwhile, said that Bersamin has “exhibited bias and animosity” towards her when, during his testimony before the House panel, he alluded to the Chief Justice as a “dictator” as he expressed his personal resentment over her manner of leadership which, according to him, was against the collegial nature of the SC.
In the pleadings she filed, Sereno clarified that her move seeking recusal of four justices was without prejudice to her contention that the SC has no jurisdiction over the quo warranto case.
It is the position of the Chief Justice that the high tribunal has no authority to remove her from office via quo warranto because the Constitution and established jurisprudence provide that constitutional officials, including all members of the SC, may only be removed from office upon impeachment by the House and conviction by the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court.
Sereno has earlier asked the SC to dismiss Solicitor General Jose Calida's petition on technical grounds, particularly for lack of jurisdiction and violation of the one-year prescription period for the filing of such petitions.
She argued that the SC has no jurisdiction and authority to remove her from office because the 1987 Constitution provides that she could only be ousted by impeachment in Congress as she is an impeachable official.
Sereno, who is currently on indefinite leave, earlier said she is ready to face impeachment proceedings in the Senate anytime soon.
The SC has set the oral arguments in Baguio City on April 10. (PNA)